Washington, D.C., has for many years attracted some of the leading Czech and Slovak economists, political thinkers, academics and activists.
Czechs & Slovaks at National Cathedral
Perhaps unsurprisingly during the Cold War period, Czech and Slovak organizations in Washington, D.C., were amongst the most vocal in their calls for reform back in Czechoslovakia. To this day, Washington, D.C., plays home to a number of America’s most active Czech and Slovak societies. The capital’s Czech and Slovak Embassies provide these organizations with a place to meet and promote Czech and Slovak culture and ideas.
View a clip from the March 2011 event at the Czech Embassy here.
Here are the stories of some of the Czechs and Slovaks who settled in Washington, D.C.:
August 16, 2013
Madeleine Albright was born in Prague in 1937. Because of her father's diplomatic career, Madeleine spent her childhood in Belgrade, London and Prague, and the family eventually claimed asylum in the United States following the Communist coup in 1948. After receiving her PhD from Columbia University, Madeleine became involved in politics - a career which culminated with her being named Secretary of State in 1997.
November 08, 2011
Michlean Amir was born in 1940 in Nîmes, France to Czech Jewish parents. She lived in Plzeň, Czechoslovakia from 1945 to 1948 when she emigrated to Israel with her parents and younger sister. Michlean then moved with her family to Rochester, New York in 1955. Today, she is an archivist at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and lives in Rockville, Maryland.
August 17, 2011
Vera Borkovec was born in Brno in 1926 and lived in Prague until 1934 when she moved to Tehran with her family. They returned to Czechoslovakia following WWII, but left the country in July 1949 after the rise of the Communist party. She first immigrated to Bolivia, and later arrived in the United States in 1952, eventually settling in the Washington, D.C. area. Vera was a professor of Russian language and literature at American University for over 30 years.
April 08, 2013
Luboš Brieda grew up in Banská Bystrica in central Slovakia. At age 14, he moved to the United States with his mother and settled in Alexandria, Virginia. Luboš earned a PhD in aerospace engineering from George Washington University and runs his own consulting company. He is also the creator of SlovakCooking.com and enjoys hiking and climbing. Luboš lives in Falls Church, Virginia with his wife.
February 14, 2012
Robert Budway was born to a Czech mother and Canadian father in Oak Park, Illinois, in 1928. In 1931, he moved to Czechoslovakia with his mother, Marie. After the war, he says local policemen in Klatovy told him he was staying in Czechoslovakia 'illegally' as an American citizen. He joined the US Army and settled in Washington, D.C. in 1951. He subsequently made several visits back to Czechoslovakia and, in 1962, was arrested on charges of espionage and subversion. He was released from prison in February 1963.
September 22, 2011
Matt Carnogursky was born in Bratislava in 1960. He left the country in 1983, shortly before graduating with an engineering degree from technical university. He emigrated to Canada where an uncle lived, earned his degree, and began working for an aerospace company. Matt and his family have lived in Nigeria, Budapest, Slovakia, and the United States. He, his wife Gaby, and their eight children live in northern Virginia.
November 22, 2010
Zdenek David was born in Blatná, South Bohemia, in May 1931. He left Czechoslovakia in 1947, when he gained a one-year scholarship to complete his secondary education at the Putney School in Vermont. When the Communist takeover happened in 1948, his parents urged him not to return home. Zdenek was invited to work at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington D.C. in 1974. He works there to this day, now as the senior scholar.
June 16, 2011
Helena Fabry was born in Hradec Králové, Bohemia in 1925. Her father was a cabinet maker, while her mother stayed at home and raised Helena and her younger sister Věra. Helena graduated from business school in Hradec Králové during WWII and was assigned a job at the local supplies bureau. She was involved in local amateur theater which, she says, helped her through WWII.
December 17, 2013
Frank Fristensky was born in Olomouc in 1948 and grew up in Rožnov pod Radhoštěm. Shortly after the Warsaw Pact invasion of 1968, Frank left the country with his parents and two younger brothers. The family settled in Switzerland where Frank studied at a sports school. He moved to the United States in 1978 and became a volleyball coach. Today he lives in Durango, Colorado.
July 27, 2010
Joe went to school in Nové Mesto nad Váhom and, as a keen sportsman, gained a place at Charles University’s Faculty of Physical Education in Prague upon graduation. He studied there for one month until his father died and, Joe says, money ran out. In 1961, Joe entered the Czechoslovak Army and was sent to the officers’ academy in Nitra. He left Czechoslovakia in 1969.
December 06, 2011
Thomas Gibian was born in Prague in 1922. He was attending boarding school in Britain when Nazi forces took control of Czechoslovakia and his family decided to leave. They arrived in the United States in November 1940. Thomas joined the Czechoslovak 312 squadron of the British Royal Air Force. He earned a doctoral degree in chemistry and spent his career in the chemical industry. Today he lives in Sandy Spring, Maryland.
November 16, 2011
Kveta Gregor-Schlosberg was born in Jičín in 1925. She moved to Prague with her family at the age of ten where she took ballet lessons and danced at the National Theatre. Kveta left Czechoslovakia in 1945 following her first marriage, but she returned for a visit in 1947 and was unable to leave when her father was arrested following the Communist coup. In 1949, she left for the United States and settled in Washington, D.C. where she lives today.
September 02, 2011
Oliver Gunovsky was born in Trenčín, western Slovakia in 1944. He lived with his grandparents for a few years after his father left the country illegally and his mother relocated to Liptovský Hrádok. When he was eight, he moved to be with his mother. Oliver received a travel visa in August 1968 to visit his father in England, and following the Warsaw Pact invasion, he decided not to return to Czechoslovakia. After England, Oliver lived in Canada for 11 years. He currently lives in Washington, D.C.
July 22, 2011
Otomar Hájek was born in Belgrade in 1930. He spent his childhood in several different places because of his father's military career. Otomar moved back to Prague in 1945 where he began a career in mathematics and engineering. He and his wife, Olga, left Czechoslovakia in 1966 when he was offered a position at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland for one year. Today, they live in Fredericksburg, VA.
July 26, 2011
Thomas Hasler was born in Prague in 1941. His father, Karel Hašler, was a popular Czech entertainer who was arrested by the Gestapo and killed in a concentration camp one month after Thomas was born. Thomas and his mother, Charlotte Jurdová, left Czechoslovakia for Australia in 1949, and later came to the United States in 1958. Thomas enjoyed a career in journalism and has lived in Baltimore for more than 40 years.
November 08, 2010
Charles Heller was born Ota Karel Heller in Prague, in January of 1936. His father, Rudolph, was the owner of a clothing manufacturing firm in Kojetice near Prague. With the outbreak of WWII, the clothing factory was seized by the Nazis and handed to an ethnic German. Charles’ father fled Czechoslovakia in 1940 and made it to Palestine, where he joined the British Army, and eventually fought as part of the British Army’s Czechoslovak Division.
September 08, 2011
Martin Herman was born in České Budějovice in 1948 and moved to Prague a few months later with his parents. He loved sports as a child, and grew to be an excellent tennis player. In 1974, Martin was allowed to travel to Germany to visit with an old family friend, Frau Manzer. He stayed there for over a year before moving to the United States. Martin worked for the World Bank for many years and today is an international consultant.
November 22, 2011
Lubomir Hromadka grew up in Jičín, northeastern Bohemia. Shortly after the Communist coup in February 1948, Lubomir participated in a student march supporting the former president Beneš. After the march, he feared arrest and left Czechoslovakia, spending one year in Ludwigsburg refugee camp before immigrating to Brazil. In 1957, Lubomir moved to Cleveland where he led a brass band and was involved in Czech theatre.
December 29, 2010
Peter Hruby was born in Prague in June, 1921. Unable to attend university during WWII, he went to work in a factory in Chotěboř. He went into exile in August 1948. Peter settled in Geneva and completed his university education there. It was at this time he founded the journal ‘Skutečnost’, which he says today is one of his proudest achievements.
December 01, 2011
Viera Jamrich was born in Nitra, western Slovakia, in 1952. Following the Warsaw Pact invasion in August 1968, Viera and her mother immigrated to Vancouver; however, they returned less than one year later. Viera studied mechanical engineering at the Slovak Technical University. In 1982, she left the country for a second time when she took a trip to Turkey. Today, she works for the U.S. Postal Service and lives in Fairfax, Virginia.